It was a weekend of milestones for me. On Saturday I finally took down most of the insulation in the greenhouse and re-installed the automatic roof vent opener. The sudden increase in light levels will, I hope, make up for the 2 to 3 C drop in temperature and spur the seedlings into even stronger growth. I went on to clear even more space for seed trays, setting up more watering trays lined with capillary matting ready for the next influx. I was so busy clearing and tidying I almost missed another milestone.
I am on near permanent “Bud Watch” at this time of year. I have an area by the compost bins under the Rowan tree that has been the focus of most of my bud watching this past week. The photograph above is of the buds of my wood anenome (Anenome nemorosa). I planted them in the first Spring we lived here, when the Rowan resembled a spindly stick more than a tree (I planted it as a bare-rooted maiden). They arrived in the post – a Guardian newspaper special offer – as three small unpromising bare-rooted plants. Ever since they have represented the true arrival of Spring for me, so when I saw that the first flowers were open I had to stop my greenhouse tidying and grab my camera.
I love the delicate papery white of the petals, and the soft yellow of the stamens. I was beginning to worry, because I hadn’t even seen the buds appearing until the middle of last week, but it looks as if I will have a carpet of white flowers to brighten the trip to the compost bins soon.
I have to be honest though, there was another plant in this area that I have been waiting for even more avidly.
I love the Dog’s Tooth Violet – Erythronium ‘Pagoda’. I love the soft lemon yellow, the golden streaks marking the center, the delicately backswept petals. I originally planted 5 bulbs, and three never flowered at all. The remaining two have staggered and stuttered their way into forming smallish clumps, nothing like I originally envisaged, but year on year I get more and more buds. This is definitely the best year yet, and they make my heart sing.
At this point I realised that over night the first of the Narcissus ‘Segovia’ bulbs that I planted last Autumn had started flowering. I don’t usually go for multi coloured narcissus, I’ve always preferred plain golden yellow, or, at a pinch, plain white. But I fell in love with these, and they haven’t disappointed.
I clearly have a bit of a ‘thing’ for backswept petals…
The first of the lovely surprises was that a flying visit from BIL and gardening SIL netted me three large pots of Primroses.
I love native primroses, but for some strange reason have never had any in my own garden, so this was a wonderful gift. They are going to stay in their pots until they have finished flowering, sat on the table where we can all enjoy them from the house. One pot will get split and potted up again, to ensure that we can take some with us when we move. The rest will be split and spread around the garden, ready to provide another Spring milestone next year.
Sunday saw FIL and I head off up to the allotment. The previous week I had planted more First Early potatoes (5 x ‘Anya’, 5 x ‘Charlotte’, 5 x ‘Lady Christl’, and 5 x ‘Swift’), but had forgotten that FIL had actually dug the bed longer than I had remembered so I added another half a dozen ‘Swift’. I’ve attempted to continue the slug pellet experiment. I say “attempted” because even with the slug pellet pot right in front of me I am far from convinced that all the seed potatoes in the “with pellets” row actually got pellets added to the hole… This from someone who originally wanted to be a pathologist, a job that requires meticulous attention to detail and adherence to methodology…
The rest of my time was spent with one sort of crop protection venture or another. The strong winds had wreaked havoc with my hose cloche, ripping the fleece cover from the framework. Somewhere in my blog reading I remembered seeing someone talk about using two pieces of fleece fastened in the middle with clothes pegs, to make access for weeding and harvesting easier. If this was you, please let me know so that I can credit you! And best do so before I visit the plot again and find the clothes pegs have pinged off…
Anyway, I re-made the cloche cover using two separate lengths of fleece and replaced the rocks that had been holding the sides down with stout plastic pegs stolen from the van awning bag.
Next on the list was the first lot of potatoes. Sue@Green Lane Allotments had warned me about the dangers of fleece being in contact with new potato growth if there was a heavy frost. So, armed with a bunch of fancy new connectors and some bamboo from my garden, I constructed a new-style cloche to protect them but keep the fleece off the foliage.
I was so busy constructing the cloche I almost missed another important milestone – the first signs of potato growth from the ‘Swift’ seed potatoes planted on 20th March. I was thrilled, like a little kid at Christmas, so I am sorry, but I have to include the photographic evidence:
Not the most beautiful photograph I’ve ever taken, but one of the most significant!
Next on the agenda was the rhubarb. It had perked up lots after the soaking I gave it and the rich mulch of manure. To be honest, I am pretty cross with myself for what I did next. I’d been reading about the experiments in 1m square bed gardening that they have been doing on the Organic Gardening site. They used a system of plastic boards that click together to make the beds, which are made from 95% recycled plastic. In an ideal world I would construct a raised bed for the rhubarb from rescued wood. TNG even found me a wooden pallet, but the wood was too split to use, and anyway, I’m just not well enough for that kind of project right now. So I spent £20 on a 1m squsre bed to nurture my free rhubarb, making it a very expensive freebie. OK, so we will take it with us when we leave, it should last for years, and I love the idea of recyling plastic to build raised beds with. But really. What was I thinking. I’m sure the rhubarb would have been just fine with a thick mulch of manure.
It does seem to be a good product though, the pieces slot together really easily, and are anchored in place by plastic dowling – or yet more bamboo. So I now have ridiculously smart rhubarb.
All this time FIL had been digging away in the background, listening to me muttering. When I finally got to the end of my tasks – which included the now compulsory weeding session – I discovered that he had delivered the final and in some ways best milestone of the weekend.
The last bed has been dug over and is ready for planting. In a little over three months our plot has gone from this:
I couldn’t have done it without him.
And the final lovely surprise? BIL and gardening SIL have given me a ticket to the Malvern Spring Show for my birthday. BIL is going to drive us and then leave gardening SIL and I to wander around to our heart’s content until we need to be picked up and collected. Probably the best birthday present I have ever had, and definitely the only way I would ever have made it there. So roll on 12th May, here we come!